Feb 28, 2015

Sailing Fish

Yep, another fish.

I enjoyed the problem-solving of my last piece, the barracuda, and wanted to try that all again. Now that I had one picture under my belt I figured I could do a better job if I went for it again. That turned out to be mostly true, but there was still some back-and-forth with the smaller choices.

Also, choosing a different fish is gonna present a whole new set of challenges no matter how prepared you are. For my second pic I wanted to do a Sailfish (which I originally thought was a Marlin). I love their long, pointy noses and giant fins. Their proportions are outta control; they're already caricatures of themselves. The main challenge here was that gigantic fin on his back and the colored stripes on his body. The fin itself took a lot of time to design and polish.

Like always, I started with some sketches. These were easier to produce because I was kinda already in 'fish mode'.

The end design was a combination of the top one and the face of the bottom one in the second pic.

Again, from there it was the same process of laying in colors, importing certain things from the Barracuda pic, like the scales layer, and eventually adding thick, clean lines around the edges.

The background took a while to settle on; it's easy to make a dark wall with a wallpaper-y pattern feel like an abandoned house. I pushed against that as best I could, cause I really wanted an appealing background with a subtle pattern.

On a weird side note, I remembered while working on this pic that I'd actually painted a Sailfish/Marlin-type fish way back in high school art class. It was done on a tiny canvas with acrylics, and I remember at the time thinking it was the coolest thing I'd ever done. It was so much more vivid and colorful than most of the other stuff I was doing at the time. Looking back, it's funny to see how far I've come in pretty much every facet of art. Maybe I should fix it up at some point..

(circa 2002)

Until next time...

Feb 23, 2015


I was kinda sick of looking at the header image on my Twitter profile page, and it seemed like a great opportunity to create something that would fit perfectly in that space. Others online have been good about tracking the exact size of a Twitter header image, so it was just a matter of making something in that very horizontal layout.

It thought it'd be fun to paint up a really long, skinny fish, and I've always liked the looks of barracudas, especially with their weird lower jaws jutting out. Even though they're super long fish, that jaw and those teeth make them feel like they're 90% mouth. So, I did a few sketched based on some random images from the internet, including some more scientific paintings I found.

From there I blocked in my colors and tried to tighten everything up. The biggest challenge was not to rely on sharp final edges when I was still getting my basic layout down. I wanted to focus on the fish as a whole and not worry about the minutiae of each edge and shape interaction. Digital art is really easy to micromanage because you can zoom in to 600% size and undo every little change you make. It was important that I treated this as more like a traditional painting. It sounds strange, but all the freedom you gain from digital art can be paralyzing if you don't have a good plan about how to move forward with a piece.

That being said, when I got some general idea of a clean, colored form, the details started adding up, and eventually I added final lines over everything. This meant I didn't really need tight colored shapes at all, since they were getting covered by those lines anyway. And the lines themselves weren't finitely detailed or perfectly sharp, they were just added with the paintbrush tool.

The background came much easier than the fish, maybe because I knew it needed to be simple and a little abstract. Believe it or not, the hook in his mouth was a last-minute addition. It seems like that'd be something added in right away, but I didn't even think of it till I walked away for a few hours. Seeing it again after that break triggered that idea immediately. That's a good lesson too; always walk away from a project and come back with fresh eyes, if you've got the luxury of time.

(Click for the big fish)

Until Next Time.

Feb 15, 2015

Under Water

I wanted to overhaul the background on my Twitter page, and I thought it'd be fun to do a really skinny vertical image that would work well with the vertical layout of Twitter. Doing research on max screen sizes I learned that the new Twitter layout gives everyone a blank white background. Bummer.

Still, I liked the idea I had, so I fleshed it out just for fun. This was a rare instance where I came in knowing exactly what layout I wanted and executed it in the same afternoon that I started it. Usually these things end up getting drawn out to multiple afternoons, making tiny changes here and there. It felt great to just sit down and finish something, beginning to end, in a single chunk.

The real only roadblock I had was the seaweed, which originally started as just some abstract green lines. I felt like they looked a little TOO simple. I kept pushing their volumes and colors with a nifty leaf brush in Photoshop. Also I originally had an ocean floor on the very bottom, and ended up axing that. This change, in combination with the strong light slice towards the top, helped push this to a level I was happier with.

Until Next Time.

Feb 1, 2015


Out of nowhere I'd gotten the urge to sketch some tertiary Star Wars characters. A lot of them have such fun designs, and thanks to the popularity of the franchise, reference materials are really easy to get.

The character that interested me the most was Greedo.

I think it was his teal/orange color scheme and his giant bug eyes. I'd never given him much thought as a character but the more I sketched him, the more fun it became to push his design elements. He's got a lot to work with: His antennas, his giant elf ears, the mohawk,the long, skinny fingers, etc. I really enjoyed pushing those elements to create something cartoony.

Greedo's only scene has him pointing and (allegedly) shooting his laser. I thought it'd be fun to play with that idea since that's what he's always associated with. The idea of him in a shooting pose with nothing but his hands in a pistol shape made me chuckle, so I sketched that out.

At first it was just some line art that I cleaned up, but I liked it enough to paint it.

Even though this essentially looked how I wanted in my head, when reached this stage, I had the impulse to polish it even more. I ditched the final line art and painted in some more details.

And, of course, now it felt like it needed a background. This is a problem I run into a little too often, where I always want to push a piece until it really feels 'finished'. This means I end up making important decisions much later in the process. For example, with this piece I now needed to build a full composition around a character. This is something that should have been figured out from the initial sketch, but the impulse to add a background wasn't there at the time.

Because of this, the background was tough to design and it took a lot of fine-tuning to get it to feel right. On top of that, it's easy to create and polish a background to such a degree that it overwhelms the initial character painting. Then it feels like the whole original purpose of the drawing is lost. So working out that balance was really tough. Also, I couldn't have done it without some excellent advice from Bob Rissetto who, as always, helped me persevere through the most frustrating parts. Sometimes the best solution for a roadblock is a second set of eyes.

I'm happy with the final piece, but it was teetering on the edge of being over-worked. In the past I've had pieces that I over-worked to the point where I didn't even like them anymore. They just felt like random pieces and colors, not a coherent whole. With Greedo I felt like I was able to avoid that pitfall and end up with something appealing.

Until Next Time.